The Faces of ISF … Meet “Coach” Tom Patania

Names/ages of dogs: Sydney (11), Bella (9), Lucky (3)

Years married and to whom: Going on 18 years with Lo Patania

Years in Charlotte: 11

Neighborhood: Glen Laurel, Indian Land, SC

Hometown: Utica, MI

College Alumni: Oakland Community College

Occupation: Credit Manager for ESP Associates, P.A.

Years Involved with the Foundation: 4 years

What is your role with the Foundation: Isabella’s Dream Team Coach, also help with social media and the marketing committee.

How did your involvement with ISF begin? In 2013, after a disheartening experience with one of the large cancer charities, I searched for a local charity that was making a difference in my community. I like to think that I didn’t find ISF, but that ISF found me. Once I watched the emotional 8 minute video on their website, I fell in love with this little girl whom I would never have the opportunity to meet. I reached out to ISF and set up a First Giving page with a very lofty goal (which was crushed thanks to very generous donors!). I first ran the RnR Savannah half marathon, as support to my wife who was also running it, and then the next weekend, I ran the Thunder Road half marathon (now named Charlotte Marathon). It was while I was running Thunder Road, that I hatched the plan to create a team to run this race the following year. Isabella’s Dream Team was born on the streets of Charlotte, NC.

What is your favorite story about Isabella? Unfortunately, I only have heard stories are the ones that have been shared by those that knew her. Seeing videos of her and hearing that sweet voice keeps me motivated. She is the absolute heart of our team.

What is one of your top ISF moments? Being the originator of Isabella’s Dream Team makes me incredibly proud. We start the season as individuals, but the miles we run in honor of Isabella and all the children currently fighting cancer binds us as a team. We become motivated to fight for our cause and draw inspiration from one another to achieve our goals. The distance doesn’t seem as daunting when you are running for a little girl whose dreams were cut 80 years short. To date, we’ve raised more than $150,000 and are just about to begin season three.

Where do you see ISF in 5 years? In one word: everywhere.

What is something you think ISF could improve on this year? The only thing that comes to mind is sharing how ISF is making impact, not only in our Charlotte community, but nationally. I think when people see good being done in their community, they want to become involved.

Who are your role models? My parents. I lost my dad when I was about to graduate from high school, but in our short time together he taught me the value of hard work (and elbow grease). I lost my mom to cancer five years ago, and she taught me how to be compassionate. I work to make them proud every day.

What is something about you that would surprise people? I used to be a (very mediocre) DJ back in the day with two turntables and a microphone.

What is your biggest pet peeve? One of my pet peeves is when people don’t go all the way down to the ground on a push up.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done? It has to be watching both of my parents battle illness. There is something so helpless about the whole process of dying and I cannot even begin to comprehend going through the death of a child.

What do you love to do in Charlotte? Run. Eat. Drink.

What are a couple of your guilty pleasures? Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (with either the brownie batter or caramel core)

Who is your celebrity crush? Currently: Ellie Goulding

What is your favorite drink? Hell or High Watermelon by 21st Amendment (sorry local breweries, you all come in a close second)

The Faces Of ISF…Meet Andrea Isaac

Names/ages of children: Ryan (8) and Brandon (6)

Years married and to whom: Brett Isaac for 13 years

Years in Charlotte: 18 years

Neighborhood: Marvin Creek in Waxhaw, NC.

Hometown: Gaithersburg, Maryland

College Alumni: University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Occupation: Director of Strategic Partnerships with ISF

Years Involved with the Foundation: 3

What is your role with the Foundation: Director of Strategic Partnerships and Auction Director. I work to establish relationships with businesses in our community that want to support our mission either via sponsorship opportunities or auction item donations.

How did your involvement with ISF begin?  I started on the Silent Auction Committee, helping to obtain items to create our auction packages. I also volunteered whenever I could for various ISF events. I live across the street from the Santos family and what I witnessed in Isabella’s last few weeks was heart wrenching. My family and I knew we had to help and get involved in any way we could. Eventually, Erin came to me and asked me to come on board as the Director of the Auction, which then lead to Director of Strategic Partnerships. It has been an incredible life changing journey. Just another example of how Isabella has changed people’s lives for the better!

What is your favorite story about Isabella? I smile when I think about how she would dance and sing anytime, anywhere! She didn’t know a stranger either. She didn’t know me that well, but she was always very sweet and polite. She had an energy about her that I can’t put into words. She truly was a remarkable little girl! A week or so before she passed away, Erin and Stuart carried her over to our neighbors house to see a bunny that a sweet farmer had let them keep for a couple of weeks because he knew how much Isabella loved animals. Isabella couldn’t walk and could only really see out of one eye. She was skin and bones, so frail. All of the neighborhood kids were over to see the bunny as well. I was nervous that Ryan, my rambunctious 4 year old at the time, would knock Isabella over or be too rough. He shocked my husband and I with how gentle and caring he was. He helped her hold the bunny and spoke softly. It brought me to tears. Children truly know so much more than we give them credit for. The compassion he showed in that moment was something some adults could learn from. I will never forget that moment. That night, Brett and I cried in our bed thinking about the experience and realizing it was probably the last time we would see Isabella.

What is one of your top ISF moments? Honestly there are so many! One moment that will stay with me forever was after completing my first silent auction as Auction Director and realizing that we more than doubled our proceeds from the year before. It was such a proud moment for me. I then started to feel like I was truly making a difference in the fight against pediatric cancer and all the blood, sweat, and tears were more than worth it!

Our recent 1st Annual Coffee for a Cure was another top ISF moment in my mind. It was a huge success and we are still seeing the benefits of putting on this incredible event. Seeing the desire of others to help and get involved is so inspiring and it’s wonderful to see the good in people!

Another was running on the Dream Team and completing my first half marathon last year. I am NOT and NEVER was a runner. I actually despise running! I was convinced to give it a try and I stuck with it. Crossing the finish line last November was so fulfilling. I never even knew I would want to accomplish a goal like this, but when I did, it fulfilled something in my heart and mind. I can’t explain it but it was an ability incredible experience!

Ok, so that was 3…but trust me….I narrowed it down quite a bit. There are just so many wonderful moments with ISF…it was hard to pick just one!

Where do you see ISF in 5 years? I would love to see ISF have a national presence. We are doing everything now to lay the ground work for this goal and I truly believe nothing can stop this amazing team!

What is something you think ISF could improve on this year? Building a stronger employee & volunteer infrastructure so we are able to handle our incredible exponential growth over the past couple of years.

How has ISF impacted your kids? My boys have such generous hearts and I believe a huge reason is because they have grown up with ISF as a daily part of their lives. They have compassion for people that you can’t teach or force! I love that they see their father and I work so hard to support ISF and that we are making a difference. The feel that if they works hard enough they can make a difference too. I love that!  A cute example of their desire to help however they can is when Erin’s dog Baily passed away last year. The boys saw how sad they were and wanted to create BSF: Bailey Santos Foundation to help people who are sad when their pets die. My heart melted when they came to me with the idea…and I was laughing a little too! It was so sweet!

Who are your role models? My parents! They are 2 of the best people I know. They gave my sister and I a wonderful childhood and are an incredible support to us in adulthood. They are hardworking, generous, kind hearted, and responsible people! They have supported us though good times and bad, even times they didn’t agree with our choices. Their unconditional love has truly shaped my life. I hope that my children feel the same love from me that my parents made sure we felt and still feel! I couldn’t ask for a better parents or role models!

What is something about you that would surprise people? I have an almost debilitating fear of flying. Those who have flown with me know how rough it is! I have been known to have a panic attack or two and page the stewardess to have the pilot land the plane so I can get off ASAP. Unfortunately we were over the ocean at the time and that wasn’t happening. Given my history, I require a cocktail or 4 to get on a plane and possibly a Xanax thrown in for good measure. Pretty sure my husband has some battle scars from my death grip on his arm. My Aunt in Holland passed away from breast cancer and was always too afraid to fly so she missed out on so many wonderful things in the world and never got to come to America and visit her sister. I vowed to never let my fear hold me back…so bring on the cocktails!

What is your biggest pet peeve? When people don’t say thank you if you hold the door open for them or give you a wave if you let them in your lane when driving!!!

What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Losing my Grandmother. Her death was my first real experience losing a close loved one. We were very close and I cherish the time I had with her. I think about her every day in some small way. Miss her so much. Another was watching Isabella fight her cancer battle. She was such a bright light and seeing that light slowly dim and then go away was something I hope to never experience again.

What do you love to do in Charlotte? The weather in Charlotte is amazing! Taking our boys hiking is a favorite, or just spending time cooking out or taking the train uptown to spend the day.

What are a couple of your guilty pleasures? Oh my…there are too many to list but here is the short list: Squeeze Cheese, Salt and Vinegar Chips, Candy, Wine, the Walking Dead, The Real Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy (I think I may be the only person left who still watches), Naps, Tori Burch, Happy Hour Playdates!

Who is your celebrity crush? Ryan Reynolds

What is your favorite drink? Vodka with fresh Grapefruit! Yum!

The Faces of ISF… Meet Jeff Laughton

Names/ages of children: Brady (9) & Avery (8)

Years married and to whom: Karen for 11 years 
Years in Charlotte: 10 1/2
Neighborhood: Marvin Creek
Hometown: McLean, VA
College Alumni: Ohio University
Occupation: Anti-Fraud Strategy Consultant for Wells Fargo
Years Involved with the Foundation: 4 years
What is your role with the Foundation: Board of Directors, Director of Corporate Sponsorships
How did your involvement with ISF begin? 4 years ago, Erin and Stuart created the ISF board. They asked me to be a board member as well as manage everything surrounding our Corporate Sponsorships. 
What is your favorite story about Isabella? In the early months of knowing the Santos’s and specifically Isabella, she randomly gave me a hug without saying anything or asking for anything – she just wanted to give me a hug. It was a very special moment for me. I also helped Stuart move her play house in the back yard so that it wasn’t directly in the sun anymore as it was too hot. As I was walking away she looked at me and said “Thank you Mr. Jeff” – those were the last words I ever heard her say.

What is one of your top ISF moments? There are so many to choose from, but one of my favorite moments is when we announced that we had achieved our goal and surpassed the $1MM in funds raised.

Where do you see ISF in 5 years? In 5 years, I believe ISF will be a nationally recognized pediatric cancer foundation that is known for funding successful and impactful research trials that are saving children’s lives.

What is something you think ISF could improve on this year? We need to focus on being more strategic and less tactical which includes establishing a detailed vision for the future of the foundation, setting goals, and adding more structure.

How has ISF impacted your kids? Because both my wife and I are involved in the foundation our kids constantly hear us talking about the foundation. We also attend a majority of the events and bring the kids with us. They have embraced the foundation and believe in what we are working towards. One of my favorite stories that shows the impact ISF has had on my kids is when my son Brady overheard the parents brainstorming how we can raise more money so that we can continue our mission to save children’s lives, and he went home, grabbed his piggy bank and tried to give it to Erin. He also offered to donate his beloved collection of Skylanders for our 5k raffle.

Who are your role models? My parents – I am who I am because of them. They were both absolutely amazing people and I’m extremely proud to be their son.
What is something about you that would surprise people? At the end of high school and early college I had long hair.
What is your biggest pet peeve? When people are pumping gas and after the tank is full they continue to repeatedly pull the handle so that it lands exactly on the dollar even though they are paying with credit card.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done? I just recently lost my father to cancer and watching him go through what he did to fight it was both inspiring and unbelievably difficult.

What do you love to do in Charlotte? I think the White Water Center is one of Charlotte’s best attractions. My family and I really enjoy going out there to spend time together relaxing by the water, eating lunch there, listening to music, or challenging ourselves by doing some of the activities.

What are a couple of your guilty pleasures? Anything related to Chocolate, but specifically Dark Chocolate, Magic Shell (goes on Ice Cream), and Ghiradelli Dark & Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate squares, Game of Thrones

Who is your celebrity crush? Kristen Bell

What is your favorite drink? Scotch

Want to be a part of our team? We are hiring!

Job: Director of Sponsorship Development (Sales)vnecks

Market: Charlotte, NC_Based

Who: The Isabella Santos Foundation/Sponsorship Relationships

Job Description: The Isabella Santos Foundation, a 501c3, was established in honor of Isabella Santos, who fought a long and courageous battle with Neuroblastoma. Isabella passed away at the young age of 7, and her foundation has continued her mission of fighting for a world with no more cancer. In 2014, ISF surpassed one million dollars in overall fundraising dollars.

ISF has grown rapidly over the past several years and is currently looking for a Charlotte based, part time employee to seek out new sponsorship opportunities as well as help develop Strategic Partnerships

Responsibilities of this individual include:
• Work with the current ISF established corporate relationships.
• Seek out and develop new strategic relationships within the Charlotte market and beyond. Expanding the list of corporate relationships and total corporate $’s annually
• Play a major role in pulling together our “4th Annual Sponsor Appreciation Dinner”
• Attend Chamber meetings, networking groups and local events to meet prospects and cultivate relationships
• Assist in sponsor set up and participation during our ISF 5K Race Day activities
• Play a key role in Sponsorship pricing and partnership tiers
• Identify and apply for grants and beneficiary opportunities

The chosen candidate must meet the following criteria:
• Past or current sales professional with a desire to work in the non-profit sector
• A team player that enjoys growing small business and corporate relationships
• Good communicator, honest, compassionate and able to identify valuable opportunities
• Excellent written and verbal communications skills
• Self motivated and willing to work on an hourly schedule
• Live in the Charlotte, NC surrounding area

Interested and Qualified Individuals: Please send Resume to with subject line: Director Of Sponsorship Development

This position won’t work for you- but want to still get involved? How about joining one of our great committees! We accomplish great things in numbers! Auction, Events, Firstgiving, and Race…we would love to hear from you! Email us at for information!

Volunteer your time and TAG a friend! #ISFtagteam

…A Princess Superhero?

Hero: n. Someone who faces challenges bravely and lives with a smile despite problems and shortcomings.

Qualities of a Hero:   Bravery. Confidence.  Determination. Dedication. Endurance. Perseverance. Selflessness. Sacrifice. Humility.

Princess: n. A noble young lady who carries herself with poise and dignity. She is compassionate, humble and is always thinking of others.

Qualities of Princess:  Strong. Unique. Independent. Loving. Curious. Fighter. Humble. Determined.

Ariel, the iconic princess from The Little Mermaid, has long beautiful red hair and loves the color purple. She is kind to others no matter what their circumstances, and is always looking for ways to help them in any way that she can. She is determined, fun to be around and known to follow her heart.  Sound like anyone you know?

superhero_ibAriel was Isabella Santos’s favorite princess. If you knew Isabella- there is no question as to why. This was her.  Plain and simple. The description of Ariel, down to the red hair and love of purple, fit her to a tee.

As children, we grow up fantasizing about what it would be like to be characters like Spiderman, Batman, Ariel and Elsa. We grow up learning to love these iconic personas in our life and want to do everything we can to be just like them. We dress like them, talk like them and even run around with a gown, a crown, a shield and cape just to play the part. In fact, even as adults, we secretly still want to be one of them.  We want to have abilities like teleportation, invisibility, time travel and superhuman speed just to get through our everyday life. But, in reality- we are human. We can only do what we can do.

So, what if you really had to transform into one?  And we mean REALLY had to transform. It is one thing to be Superman in our childlike imagination, but when real life throws us a ball of kryptonite- we have no choice but to fight back.

But here is the interesting part. If you have ever known a child with cancer- the resemblance is uncanny.  They are the bravest people you will ever meet. They are the most determined kids you will ever know. And…when push comes to shove- they fight with superhuman strength, they love with the most selfless of hearts and they teleport to places during dark times that most adults could never comprehend.

They are the real superheroes. They are the real princesses. THEY… are the real deal.

Throughout the month of September, we want to honor these incredible kids. We want to show that although they are just like every normal kid out there- they are heroic and deserve some serious recognition. They have fought battles worthy of Thor, shown the strength of The Incredible Hulk, and had to become invisible to the outside world like The Black Widow.  Much like Cinderella, they do not let life’s circumstances keep them down and continue to keep a positive outlook. Similar to Belle, they look past the masks and see the true beauty in people within. They live their own life… in their own way…regardless of being different.

Throughout the month of September, we will honor heroes once again that are just like Isabella was and will call them “Ibby’s Heroes”. She would like that.

Some… are in the middle of the fight. They have their armor on and ready to receive potions of every kind, with great hope that the next one will be the magic one. Others… have overcome their battle, yet continue to wear their shield close, so the cancer villain cannot attack again. And then…we have our Angels. The ones we honor that have traveled to another time. They have gained their wings, become invisible to the naked eye, but fly around and protect the ones they love most.

Ibby PrincessWe want to know through the imagination of a child- “What SUPERHUMAN POWER would you use to rid the world of cancer?”  Would you shoot it with a laser fighter, zap it with hot lava, cast a spell on it…use a healing wand? Whether you prefer to live in a castle and adorn a crown of sparkly jewels or wear a mask to combat super villains- we want to know. Kids are insightful and very creative. It’s no wonder that we look to them for their innocence and their honesty. We will be using this theme in an engaging way, throughout Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, to help bring attention to the real faces of this disease. Our hope is that through more awareness…will come more action…and will rid the world of cancer forever and give children the opportunity to live their dreams.

…And back to that one special princess known as Ariel…AKA “Isabella”?

Well, she is special. She is a metaphor of love and transformation. She epitomizes what love is and wanted so desperately to experience what she had so longed for. For Isabella, this was a life without cancer. We may not be able to do it alone, but with your help, we can fight the battle- with gloves of white, a glass slipper and a cape to match!

Now is your turn…become a superhero for a child with cancer.  Register for our 5K for Kids Cancer or donate today.